You’ve come to the realization that you need to up your food storage game. Storing common ingredients and making your own food from those is the most economical method. Do you know how to store flour? That’s one of those basic ingredients essential to many foods.
Building a prepper pantry through buying bulk survival foods is convenient, but freeze dried pouches of space food and boxes of MREs is the least economical method. If you’ve been following this site for some time, you know that there are much cheaper and more readily available forms of food storage: flour being one of them.
T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) wrote in his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom about the importance of flour to his men. Logistically, flour allowed his troops fighting against the Turks during World War 1 to be able to take much longer trips into the desert. You get more servings out of a pound of flour than you do a pound of rice. As a result, Lawrence’s men were able to hit the Turks unexpectedly from every conceivable angle. If they had solely carried rice, they wouldn’t have been able to load their camels with as much food, and so, flour played an important part in the winning of World War 1.
That all being said, you’re probably interested in some of the particulars when it comes to storing flour long-term. So, let’s take a closer look at an interesting subject.
How Long Can You Store Flour?
The length of time that your flour will be good for depends on a number of variables, including how you store it. If you leave it at room temperature, refined flour will be good for up to a year when well-stored in a pantry. In the fridge it should be good for at least a year. If you keep your flour in the freezer, you should be good for two years. This is for white flour.
Personally, I’m rather of the opinion that stuff kept in the freezer should last indefinitely – I mean, it’s too cold for anything to rot in there – but the “official” time is that flour lasts two years frozen.
Whole Wheat and Other Flours
If it’s a whole wheat flour that you’re storing, then those numbers go down rather significantly. Whole wheat flour should last somewhere between 3-6 months at room temperature, 6-8 months in the fridge, and once again, 2 years if stuck in a freezer that stays at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (source).
Keep in mind that the shelf life of any flour other than refined white flour is most likely going to be exponentially shorter. Gluten-free alternatives, such as almond or coconut flour, contain so many oils that they are naturally going to go rancid quicker, as do buckwheat, rye, amaranth, and oat flour. You’ll know if your flour is rancid or not by the smell. If you open up your flour stores to find that there’s a musty, oily, sour smell – throw it out!
Using a Freezer
If you do decide to freeze your flour to keep it longer, then I recommend letting it sit out until it reaches room temperature before you use it. This will help to prevent the flour from lumping, and you’ll have a much more pleasant cooking/eating experience as a result.
Flour’s Greatest Enemies
There are a few enemies that you need to consider when it comes to storing flour long-term. They are bugs, moisture, and rot. Let’s look at each in turn.
There’s a high probability that the flour you just bought from the store has either weevils or weevil eggs inside. Possibly both. That’s normally not a huge deal, as you probably finish off the entire bag before the bugs can cause too much damage/become too prolific. However, if you plan on storing flour for the long term, you’re going to want to take every precaution that you can to protect your investment. Opening a bag of flour post-disaster/collapse only to discover that it is filled with little bugs is not a very appetizing or comforting thought.
Killing Bugs in Flour
There are two ways that we can combat bugs in flour. The first would be to stick your flour in the freezer for 48 hours as soon as you get home. This will kill any bugs and eggs that are already in your flour, so you’ll know that you’ll be starting off with a “clean” batch.
The second step would be to ensure that you are storing your flour in a bug-proof container. That little paper bag that your flour comes in is most certainly not that. If a bug wants in bad enough, it can most certainly find a way through paper. No, for the long haul, you need an impermeable food container that you can seal off in order to better ensure that your flour is safe from outside attackers.
What do you do if society crumbles into in an apocalypse and you find weevils in your flour? Eat it anyway.
If you want your flour to last as long as possible, you have to keep it as dry as possible. The presence of moisture in your flour will exponentially speed up the decomposition process. So what can we do? Well, one of the first things that you need to do, is you need to get it out of that little paper sack that it comes in. Paper is incredibly moisture absorbent, and combined with the bug issue, it adds extra incentive to get your flour into an airtight container as soon as possible.
The next best thing that you can do to fight moisture is to store your flour in a dry and cool place. If you plop it down on the concrete floor in your damp basement, you’re going to have problems. Store it in a dry, dark pantry and you’ll be in a much better position.
Storing Flour with Mylar and Buckets
As far as what to store your flour in, I recommend 5-gallon food-grade buckets. You can buy these online or try your local bakery. Make sure you are using food-safe bucket so you’ll know that whatever you put into them won’t absorb any potentially harmful chemicals.
You should be able to get anywhere between 30-35 pounds of flour in these buckets. Just make sure that you have gamma seal lids for them. You can easily pick these up online, and they’ll significantly improve the life of your flour, as they do a superior job in keeping moisture out of the bucket. The flour can be stored directly in the bucket itself or inside Ziplock bags in the bucket.
Those buckets are good for general storage and for long-term storage, but for the latter you want to take an additional step – Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. This is the standard food storage method preferred by preppers and it’s also how we advise you to store coffee beans. The Mylar is constructed from metalized polyester, impenetrable to those pesky weevils while simultaneously sealing out all light.
All you need are the bags, a hot iron, and a stack of oxygen absorbers. With enough O2 absorbers, 99.99% of the oxygen will be removed.
Storing flour for the long term involves just a few steps:
- Pour your flour in the Mylar bag
- Toss in several oxygen absorbers
- Seal the end of the bag tight with a hot clothes iron
- Wait for the O2 absorbers to work (4-6 hours)
- Stack your sealed flour away for the apocalypse
For Mylar bags used to store flour, I would skip the larger bags and focus instead on sealing the flour in 1-gallon bags. They require more upfront time to seal and store, but if/when you need to access your flour, you will be thankful that you’re opening 1-gallon bags and not 5-gallon bags. Keeping them in smaller sizes assures that the shelf-life will remain intact.
Using Enough Oxygen Absorbers
Most long-term food storage suppliers don’t sell absorbers, probably because they don’t want you storing your own. They’d rather you just buy their products. Amazon, for better or worse, is the easiest spot to shop for these:
- 200CC (100-Pack) by O2frepak Store
- 300CC (100-Pack) by wisedry Store
- 500CC (50-Pack) by O2frepak Store
- 1000CC (30-Pack) by VacYaYa Store
- 2000CC (10-Pack) by FreshUS
I try to seal enough products in one setting so that all of the absorbers get used at once; i.e. I’m not leaving a half bag of absorbers. It’s fine if you do, just make sure you seal up the unused absorbers so they’re not absorbing oxygen.
Buying Canned All Purpose Flour
If you’ve got the money and want to make 100% sure that your flour will be good when you open it, there is the alternative of buying all purpose canned flour. A more expensive option akin to buying pre-freeze dried food, but an option nonetheless.
Grinding Wheat Instead
Want to take your flour storage to a whole new level? Save wheat instead, then – when needed – grind it into flour. There are several reasons to actually grind your own flour, should that be a route you want to explore. The most common flour eaten within the States is comprised of wheat berries (though there are a multitude of others). Buckwheat, rye, amaranth, and oats can all be used to create flour as well, but when most people refer to “flour”, they’re talking about wheat.
You can buy and store wheat yourself here or buy it already ready for long-term storage here. You can also grow it. Of course, you’ll need a grain mill, and if you’re prepping for a collapse, you’ll want one that doesn’t require electricity. Storing the grain is similar to storing the flour, it will just last even longer. When stored properly, expect stored grain to last 30 years or longer.
Pros and Cons of Grinding Your Own Wheat
Everything has its advantages and disadvantages, of course. Grinding your own wheat is no exception.
- Wheat berries can be planted to grow more wheat. Not only does this provide you a form of renewable food, but it also has barter potential.
- Wheat berries have more nutrition in them than refined flour. This is because wheat berries contain all three components of a grain: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Refined wheat only contains the endosperm.
- Perchance you drop wheat berries, you just pick them back up and move on. If you spill flour, it’s toast.
- Because wheat berries contain more oils than refined flour, they will go rancid if exposed to oxygen for too long.
- In my experience, wheat berries are harder to find than refined flour is.
- You’ll need a way to mill your wheat berries into flour before you can use them. Flour is good to go already.
- Wheat berries need to be stored with oxygen absorbers to minimize the amount that air will degrade the oils inherent to the berries. Not a huge con, I suppose, but just another step that you have to do.
- Flour mills (at least good ones) can be rather expensive.
How to Store Flour Summarized
You invest a lot of time, energy, and space into ensuring that your family is protected in the event of a disaster. If you don’t take the necessary steps to protect your investment, then you’re doing things half-baked (no pun intended). By following the above steps, you’ll be much better off to ensuring that your family will have the supplies that they need when you need them more than you ever did before.
Are there other tips and tricks that you’ve learned when it comes to storing flour? Have you had personal experience with any of these reasons for flour going bad? Let us know in the comments below!